Eric Lauer has his worst outing of the season against the Nationals as the Brewers lose eighth straight game

Todd Rosiak
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Brewers second baseman Mark Mathias catches a fly ball as rightfielder Hunter Renfroe jumps out of the way during the first inning against the Nationals on Saturday. The Brewers' losing streak reached eight games after they fell to the Nationals, 8-6.

WASHINGTON - The Milwaukee Brewers needed Eric Lauer to step up and be a stopper on Saturday afternoon.

He responded with his worst start of the season instead.

The left-hander surrendered four runs in the third and then four more in a fifth inning punctuated by three consecutive home runs by the Washington Nationals.

And that hole proved too deep to dig out of as, despite showing some late life offensively, the Brewers saw their run of futility stretch to eight games after an 8-6 loss at Nationals Park.

Lauer was tagged for seven hits, a career-high-tying eight runs (all earned) and a season-high-tying four walks over five innings.

"I think everybody kind of wants to be the stopper of the slide, but you don't want to put extra pressure on yourself," Lauer said. "You just want to go out there and do your job."

How did Lauer think he did in that regard?

"Not good," he said. "Not good."

Box score:Nationals 8, Brewers 6

Milwaukee, meanwhile, has lost eight consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 9-19, 2015, and now finds itself 1½ games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the Central Division standings.

The Brewers have been outscored, 37-14, in their last four games.

"I think we just need to kind of accept it for what it is right now and find a way to get past it," Lauer said of the team's struggles. "We're kind of sitting in a chaos cycle where we're doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, and it's not something that we can keep doing.

"I don't know if I have the answer or if I'm the guy to bring the answer out of anybody. But hopefully as a unit, we figure it out."

Nationals hit back-to-back-to-back home runs off Eric Lauer to blow open the game

Milwaukee was in a manageable 4-1 hole in the fifth and Lauer was ahead in the count against the pesky Lane Thomas, 0-2, before walking him to start the bottom of the frame.

Lauer struck out the next batter before Juan Soto and Nelson Cruz went deep in a three-pitch span to up Washington's lead to 7-1. It was the second time in as many games the Nationals got to Brewers pitching for consecutive homers.

But they weren't done, as five pitches later Josh Bell made it three straight homers and an 8-1 game.

"There were a few pitches where I made the pitch that I wanted to and they got to it. They're hitting well," Lauer said. "But there were a couple that I wish I had back. There were a lot of walks. The walks are really something I need to cut down on and figure out, because it's just going to extend my outings and make it harder for me.

"Free bases have been a rough time for me these last couple outings, so I really need to button that down."

Brewers offense comes to life as Mark Mathias, Luis Urías hit home runs but deficit too large

The Brewers did show some life offensively, batting around in the seventh and chasing starter Patrick Corbin in the process.

Victor Caratini and Lorenzo Cain opened with doubles and Mark Mathias, recalled earlier in the day from Class AAA Nashville, hit his first major-league homer to pull Milwaukee to within 8-4.

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After Willy Adames hit into a double play, Andrew McCutchen and Hunter Renfroe singled and Luis Urías walked to load the bases for Rowdy Tellez.

On cue, Tellez lined a 112.9-mph screamer right at Bell at first base, who gloved it to end the threat.

Tellez, in response, just stood at the plate in disbelief.

"That's baseball. That's going to happen," manager Craig Counsell said. "We gave up eight runs. You're going to have a hard time winning (when that happens)." 

Things got even more interesting in the ninth when McCutchen drew a two-out walk and Luis Urías followed with a homer to left-center off Tanner Rainey to make it a two-run game.

Tellez finished the game by striking out.

"There's never a good mood when you're in a stretch like this," Counsell said. "But the great thing is, there's a game tomorrow and we get a chance to stop it and turn the tide. And that's what we're going to come out and try to do.

"Tomorrow's a new day, and that's how you've got to approach it."

Christian Yelich starts game with a bang, hits leadoff home run

Milwaukee got out to a great start as Christian Yelich slugged the fifth pitch from Corbin 422 feet over the wall in center field for his first homer since May 11 at Cincinnati, a span of 26 games.

It was also the third leadoff homer for Yelich and his second as a member of the Brewers.

Corbin also allowed some hard contact in the third inning but nothing came of it as Mathias opened the inning by reaching on an error and stole second only to have Adames and McCutchen scald balls right at Washington defenders and strand him.

"Definitely some good at-bats," Counsell said. "Wicho had some good at-bats and obviously Christian's swinging the bat pretty well. It looks like there's some guys that are starting to swing it, so hopefully that means some runs are coming."

The bad luck then carried over to the bottom of the frame as Lauer and catcher Caratini collided trying to field a swinging bunt by Luis García, leaving him with a leadoff single.

Thomas then drew a one-out walk and Cesar Hernández singled to load the bases, with Soto following by drawing his second free pass in as many plate appearances to force in a run.

Cruz banged a double to left to score two more, and Bell's sacrifice fly left Lauer (5-2) and the Brewers in a 4-1 hole.